GALATEA Chronicles

What is Contemporary Romance? Everything You Need to Know

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What is contemporary romance and how is it different from romance novels

Contemporary romance is a subgenre of romance fiction set in the present day or recent past and features romantic relationships between characters. It offers readers a window into the joys and challenges of love and relationships in the modern world, exploring themes and issues that resonate with contemporary readers.

By grounding their stories in the here and now, contemporary romance authors create relatable and engaging narratives that capture the essence of romance in the 21st century.

A Guide to Distinguish a Contemporary Romance Novel

Aspect Contemporary romance novels Romance novels
Setting Contemporary romance novels are set in modern times, typically within the past few decades. Romance novels can be set in any time period. So it can be a historical, futuristic, or fantastical setting.
Themes Contemporary romance novels often explore themes and issues relevant to contemporary society. These would be, for instance, relationships – with peers, partners, friends, and relatives (family dynamics). Another possible theme is career challenges and social issues. Rather common elements you can notice are realism and everyday life. A common theme in romance novels is the idea of love conquering all. It’s like the heartwarming belief that no matter what challenges or obstacles characters face, love will always find a way to triumph in the end.
Characters Characters in contemporary romance novels are often portrayed as everyday people facing relatable challenges and dilemmas (examples of those were covered in the “Themes” row). They may come from diverse backgrounds and walks of life, which undoubtedly reflects the diversity of contemporary society. In romance novels, characters may embody larger-than-life archetypes or stereotypes that are characteristic of their respective time periods.
Plot Contemporary romance novels often cover additional subplots and storylines. So, once again, a reflection of the complexities of life. In order to add depth to the overall narrative, the author can (or rather “should”) cover and portray the personal growth of the main characters. This is done through the main themes: career ambitions, family obligations, and friendships. Focus on romantic relationships as their central plot.
Tone and Style Tend to have a more casual and informal tone, reflecting the language and style of modern communication. They may incorporate elements of humor, wit, and banter, as well as references to contemporary culture and technology. Romance novels set in other time periods or settings may adopt a more formal or stylized tone, reflecting the language and customs of the era.

Complex Characters and Relationships

This will be a long section, covering not only the defining features of main characters in contemporary romance novels. But also – not surprisingly – we have a whole collection of good Galatea recommendations for you.a young couple


  • Protagonists in contemporary romance novels are often depicted as individuals with diverse backgrounds, and personalities, with many aspirations, goals and sometimes fears and reservations. They may have complex – or even mysterious – pasts, dreams, and ambitions. These protagonists are relatable and flawed, just like all of us. This makes them so much more compelling and realistic!

Galatea Example

  • And we have a book recommendation for you (which we find fascinating for so many reasons), with a story centered on flawed, real-world characters. Check out The Carrero Series (this one, and this one) on GALATEA. The story follows a driven young woman grappling with the traumas of her past and juggling her new job. All the while trying not to get too distracted by her alluring boss.

Strong and Independent Heroines

  • Female protagonists in contemporary romance novels are frequently portrayed as strong, independent, and capable individuals. They may have successful careers, unique talents, and strong convictions that set them apart. These heroines challenge traditional gender roles and expectations, serving as role models for empowerment and self-determination. Characters can demonstrate strength through growth and self-acceptance.

Galatea Example

  • Want to read a book just about that? We went through our library and found just the one for you. In Keily (written by Manjari), the main character does just that as she learns to love herself and embrace the qualities that make her who she is. In the first chapters the main character feels insecure about her appearance and struggles with low self-esteem. However, as the story goes on, you can witness a fascinating character development. The narrative captures – and very beautifully – the complexities of teenage social dynamics, highlighting the contrast between supportive friendships and negative interactions like bullying and social pressure.

Confident and Sensitive Heroes

  • Male protagonists in contemporary romance novels sometimes embody a balance of confidence and sensitivity. They may be confident in their abilities and convictions, yet also capable of vulnerability and emotional depth. These heroes are respectful of their romantic partners and supportive of their goals and aspirations, fostering healthy and egalitarian relationships.

Galatea Example

  • We love men who support their women and sing their praises! In “Three. The Perfect Number”, Madison’s has not one, but TWO, adoring husbands who support her in all the right ways — not just in the bedroom!

Nuanced Relationships

  • Romantic relationships in contemporary romance novels are characterized by their nuance and depth. While physical attraction and chemistry are important, these relationships also involve emotional intimacy, mutual respect, and shared values. Characters navigate conflicts, misunderstandings, and personal growth together, fostering a sense of partnership and connection that resonates with readers.

Galatea Example

  • Relationships are never easy, especially for those looking to find love again. Things get more complex when you’re a single father. In Falling for a Cowboy written by Jeni Raye D, love means more than desire, it also means finding family.

Why Are They So Popular?

Contemporary romance novels are super popular in today’s book world! People love them because they’re all about modern love stories and everyday life.

With their focus on relationships and contemporary issues, these novels resonate with audiences seeking escapism, emotional depth, and a sense of connection. The rise of digital publishing platforms and online communities has also contributed to the genre’s widespread accessibility and visibility.

Writing Style

Descriptive Language

  • Contemporary romance novels often feature vivid and evocative descriptive language that brings settings and characters to life. Authors can also use descriptive imagery. This creates immersive environments and engage readers’ senses. Whether it’s describing a bustling city street or the tender touch of a lover’s hand, descriptive language plays a key role in setting the mood and tone of the story.


  • This is another essential element of contemporary romance novels. It is used to drive the plot forward and reveal character personalities. Conversations between characters are often lively, authentic, and filled with banter and wit. Dialogues also help to establish chemistry between romantic leads. At the same time, you can feel connected on a much deeper level with the protagonists or other characters. Mainly because it’s through dialogue that characters express their emotions, desires, fears, and conflicts.

Narrative Techniques

  • Many narrative techniques will keep you engaged and invested. The ones that are more typical for contemporary romance novels are alternating points of view between romantic leads. Basically, you can experience the story from multiple perspectives. Flashbacks and memories are often used to provide insight into characters’ backstories and motivations, deepening readers’ understanding of their actions and decisions. Another common technique is pacing. This one is not specific to contemporary romance, and is normally used to build suspense and tension. Will definitely keep you eagerly going through chapters to discover what happens next!

It’s All Online!

Woman texting on her phoneSocial media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are frequently integrated into contemporary romance narratives as a means of character interaction and world-building.

Characters communicate through private messages, post updates about their lives, or share photos and videos that provide insight into their personalities and relationships. Social media also serves as a backdrop for plot developments, such as viral trends, online debates, or public scandals that impact the characters’ lives.

Texting too – You Will Find a Lot of It in Books

Text messages play a significant role in contemporary romance narratives, often serving as a primary mode of communication between characters.

Authors may incorporate screenshots of text conversations or written exchanges to convey dialogue and advance the plot.

Text messages allow for intimate and spontaneous interactions between characters, including flirtatious banter, heartfelt confessions, and playful teasing. They also provide readers with a glimpse into characters’ thoughts and emotions in real-time, adding immediacy and authenticity to the storytelling.

In short

Okay, this article covers a lot. Let’s try to sum it up and define the main rules of contemporary romance novels. We have 6 for you.

  1. Set in modern times or recent past
  2. Reflects contemporary society and culture
  3. Focuses on relatable challenges and issues
  4. Features diverse and realistic characters
  5. Incorporates additional subplots and storylines
  6. Written in a casual and informal tone




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